With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church is again experiencing a revival, and monasticism is playing a central role in this resurgence. In the search to recover the past, Russian Orthodox are turning to the nineteenth-century revival as a normative model. This book, the first comprehensive, English-language analysis of these monastic revivals, provides an essential basis for understanding Orthodoxy in its historical context and its contemporary manifestations. The case study here is Russia’s most famous monastery, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad near Moscow.

Scott Mark Kenworthy is assistant professor of comparative religion at Miami University, Ohio.


Tables and Figures


1. Introduction: Reviving Monasticism in Modern Russia

2. Trinity-Sergius: The Heart of Russia

3. Gethsemane: The Cradle of Monasticism

4. Monks: Social History and Spiritual Life

5. Pilgrims: Pilgrimage, Relics, and Miracles

6. Reform: Revered Elders and Monastic Congresses

7. Politics: Monasticism on the Eve of Revolution

8. Revolution: Trinity-Sergius and the Bolsheviks, 1917–1921

9. Golgotha: Revival and Terror, 1921–1938

10. Epilogue: Resurrection


Winner of the 2010 Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History

“[A] brilliant and meticulously researched book&hellip. Skillfully weaving together a readable narrative that covers nearly two centuries, Kenworthy has written an invaluable work that examines a significant social movement, the monastic revival, through the careful study of one important monastic complex.”—Church History

“Kenworthy does much to enlighten the reader concerning monasticism and its impact on Russia at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth… Thanks to his painstaking archival research, Kenworthy is able to challenge some long-accepted, though often erroneous, notions concerning popular religious devotion in pre-revolutionary Russia, monastery wealth and philanthropic activity, and the Russian Orthodox Church’s activity under the Soviet regime… Kenworthy’s book should be of interest to a wide range of Russianists, as it fills a gap in this important area of Russian history and culture.”—Slavic and East European Journal

“Scott Kenworthy’s The Heart of Russia is a truly impressive book. Epic in scale and meticulous in its use of a wide and rich primary-source base, the book bears on many important questions in modern Russian history and modern history in general… it should shape the study of Russian Christianity—and hopefully contribute to the study of modern Christianity more broadly—for many decades to come.”—H-Russia

“Written in a lucid, engaging style and painstakingly researched, Kenworthy’s book marks a major contribution to the field. It is a pleasure to read and sure to stand as the definitive English-language study of Trinity-Sergius in the modern period. Not only religious historians, but all scholars working at the intersection of social, cultural, and political history will read this remarkable book with great interest and benefit.”—Slavic Review

“The strongest sections of The Heart of Russia are found in the central chapters, 4 and 5, where Kenworthy reconstructs the hopes that novices and pilgrims brought with them to the monastery and the daily lives of the monks…. Kenworthy takes great care to create a balanced picture of the relations—supportive as well as vituperative—that developed between monks.”—The Journal of Modern History

“Vivid and carefully researched…both lively and readable accounts and also enables us to grasp the complexity of the historical processes more accurately.”—The Journal of Theological Studies

“Kenworthy’s seminal new book offers a rich and complex history of Trinity-Sergius Monastery...There is much to recommend this book, including an engaging narrative, twenty-six illustrations and fourteen tables, a useful glossary, and a thorough bibliography…. The Heart of Russia will undoubtedly become essential reading for scholars and students interested in learning about the fundamental relevance of monasticism in late imperial Russia.”—American Historical Review

“The drama of monastic life in modern Russia comes to life in this balanced and engaging history of Trinity-Sergius, monasticism, and Russian society that will interest all scholars and students of religion, monasticism, and Russian culture.”—Toronto Journal of Theology

“This is a singular publication in the history of monasticism in the modern era…a masterpiece of meticulous research and superb commentary…. Scott Kenworthy deserves our gratitude for what will be for many years the standard and brilliant work on monasticism in Russia in the modern era. It is not just a fastidious and rigorous work but one of humanity and love.”—Cistercian Studies Quarterly

“Arguably the book represents the most complete analysis of modern Russian Orthodox monasticism available… Kenworthy’s work offers a profound rethinking of modern Russian monasticism, its impact on Russian religious practice and spirituality during the final century of the autocracy and early Soviet period, and their significance in terms of comprehending the resurgence of Orthodoxy.”—Canadian Slavonic Papers